Dear Jim

joe —  Sat 23-Jun-12

Email merit badgeI dread cleaning out my inbox. I’m not really a pack rat, more of a lazy email rat. Every time I do this, I seem to stumble on a “thing that makes you go hmmmm” – an Arsenio moment for those old enough to remember.

One of these emails was a letter from several years back that I handed my boss as I tendered my resignation. This was a company I had been with for a long time and quite honestly wanted to stay with, even after it was acquired.

After reading the letter again, I realized how often the behavior described below happens throughout the business world. I get letters from others describing environments that sound just like this. It is for this reason that I share it here, hoping that it may spark some ideas for your environment.

Dear Jim,
I know that we share a common desire that our organization is successful beyond imagination. I know we both agree that in order for the business to make money its people must be engaged and passionately running toward a common goal. They must buy into the company, but more importantly they must buy into you.

I appreciate that you have been asked to perform some very difficult things in a very short amount of time, but none of them are possible unless you get your team support aligned. If I may, I would like to offer you a couple of suggestions.

  1. Give leadership back to your managers.
    They feel helpless. They find out things after many of their employees do. Keep them in the loop of what is going on so that they can explain your decisions and buy into them as well.
  2. Favoritism

  3. Don’t give one manager an inside track at the exclusion of others.
    By giving one or two managers access to information and an inside track that others do not receive, you create resentment. Your decision will appear as either random, in which case your judgement comes into question, or as a vote of no confidence to everyone else.
  4. Get your leadership team together so that they see each other as teammates and not as competitors. You have created a world where every peer’s gain looks like another’s loss. Our managers are isolated and need stronger peer relationships fostered and authenticated by your leadership. Having 1:1s with everyone on their team before you have even once gathered your leadership team together only makes this worse.
  5. Homework fail

  6. Show your homework.
    In the absence of information, your teams are filling in the blanks with the worst possible scenarios – that is human nature. They assume there is some secret plan you are developing and that is why you cannot share what is going on. They are used to seeing the homework of most decisions. By cutting that information off so suddenly you have isolated them and allowed the breeding of anxiety, fear and eventually contempt. They understand that things change, but don’t wait until you have the final answer to reveal it. Show your work as it is unfolding and include them, even if it is likely to change
  7. Respond to your emails, promptly.
    I am not sure why I would have to say this. This behavior is extremely disrespectful.

I wish you well and truly hope that you can lead the wandering tribes out of the desert. These are my dearest friends and they have made incredible personal sacrifices for this company. They are the authors of all miracles of this company’s past and very much want the opportunity to do it again.



Raccoon clappingThe results were stunning. The very next day an email went throughout the division telling everyone that things were going to be different. They confessed they didn’t realize the barriers that were being made. The following year saw employee retention soar through the roof. People actually came back that had previously left. All because of a single letter.

No it didn’t. It never does. I am not even sure it was even read. The mass exodus continued. The same problems persisted. Life carried on. I knew it wouldn’t.

But I slept well that night knowing it was possible my former boss may one day clean up his desk, find this letter and actually take the time to read it.